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The Real Face of 50

Science and surgeries now offer paths to delay the aging process. But not everyone is taking them.

And what you think about aging affects how you age. Studies show that teenagers who view aging negatively develop negative perceptions of themselves when they're older.

The hallmarks of successful aging: loving relationships, relatively good health, and a zestful approach to life.

In the end, our craving for youthful skin is really about loss, says Janos Kalla, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Santa Monica, California. "Aging involves being able to adjust to multiple losses — friends, career, physical losses like muscle mass and estrogen," explains Kalla. "Underneath it all is the fear of our own death."

The hallmarks of successful aging, Kalla believes, are loving relationships, relatively good health, and a zestful approach to life. Spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle, the best-selling author of The Power of Now, urge us to create our own personal culture by embracing values that are important to us as individuals, not as consumers of mass media. At 63, Olivia Sabins, program coordinator in the athletic department of Occidental College in Los Angeles, has zeroed in on what may be the most important factor in accepting the physical changes that come with age. "I feel loved," she says. "I have good friends and a husband who adores me and thinks I'm still hot."

The next age-defying trend will likely involve gene therapy. Scientists came a step closer to turning back the aging process last year by using a gene-therapy technique to rejuvenate worn-out organs in prematurely-aged mice. By the time such techniques are accepted for human use, most of us now in our 50s probably won't care. Statistics suggest that resignation and acceptance of the aging process kicks in sometime in the second half of our 60s. At that point, perhaps, we'll see the wisdom in Robert Browning's poetic assertion that "The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made."

You might also like: Going gray is suddenly glamorous.

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